Each of us is to please his neighbor...
Romans 15:1-22 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. 2 Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” 4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. 8 For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers, 9 and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written,
“Therefore I will give
praise to You among the Gentiles,
And I will sing to Your name.” 10 Again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people.” 11 And again, “Praise the Lord all you Gentiles, And let all the peoples praise Him.” 12 Again Isaiah says, “There shall come the root of Jesse, And He who arises to rule over the Gentiles, In Him shall the Gentiles hope.”
13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
14 And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another. 15 But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17 Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. 18 For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, 19 in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. 20 And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation; 21 but as it is written,
“They who had no news of Him shall see,
And they who have not heard shall understand.”
It is important once again for us to understand the context of what Paul is saying here. Paul writes: Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. In the previous chapter Paul was addressing issues of faith regarding the freedom to eat foods that previously were not allowed under the law. Here Paul is continuing in that instruction. The growing church was made up of both Jews and Gentiles, non-Jews. There was a blending of some cultural differences. It is important also to remember that Paul’s letters to the churches, are just that, letters instructing believers, those who have accepted Christ’s redemption, those who are justified in Christ and working through their continual sanctification, their growing in faith. When Paul says: “Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.” He is speaking about the relationship between fellow believers, not between believers and unbelievers. When he talks about bearing the weaknesses of those without strength, it is those, in Christ, who have less understanding, a less mature faith.
This bearing of and pleasing our fellow believers though is not a tolerance, acceptance or condoning of sin, rather it is to encourage them in their growth. In his letter to Timothy, Paul says: Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. (2 Timothy 4:2) In today’s text he says: And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another. But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again Within a healthy church body there needs to be room for admonishing, reproving, rebuking; we are not to judge and we must have great patience, but there must be room for discipline and correction. Paul says we should please our neighbor, not by simply allowing him to do whatever he wants, but “for his good, to his edification.” In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul says: He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. Each one is to operate in the gifts they have been given.We are to speak the truth in love. Paul says we are to attain the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head.
Paul’s letters to the churches were to instruct believers. We have very little of Jesus words about the church because the church, Jesus body of believers was built after His death and resurrection. One thing we do know that Jesus said about His followers is: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) The one another Jesus is speaking about, the commandment He is giving, is that there must be love between His disciples. There are many other references and times when Jesus speaks of how we are to relate to the world, to unbelievers, how we are to love them. This commandment though, that we love one another, even as Jesus has loved us, is to His disciples, His followers, the church. Jesus says all men will know we are His disciples by the love we have for one another. It is no wonder then that the witness and the testimony of the church has become so weak in our day. Within the body of Christ, His church we have created hundreds of denominations, within the denominations there are many subdivisions. There are also thousands of nondenominational churches. There are categories of churches: Evangelical, Charismatic, Pentecostal, Calvanist and on and on. It is not that it is wrong for believers to group together with people who have the same preferences regarding worship styles or even doctrines; but when we focus on the differences, judging one another rather than loving and encouraging one another we weaken the witness and testimony of the gospel. In Mark 9:38-41 Jesus gives us some valuable instruction: John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is for us. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.
In yesterday’s text Paul said: Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. We, the church, Jesus disciples need to find the balance. We need to not judge other believers. We need to not try to stop or hinder their ministry. We need as believers to focus more on the unity that we have in Christ and less on the things that divide us. There must be room for admonishing, correction, rebuke and reproval, but it must be done with great patience and love. The world needs to hear the gospel of the kingdom. We are called to be witnesses of Christ to the world. If we don’t love one another how will the world know who we are or trust what we say?
Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen